Polar Bears2

Climate

Global warming has been called the world’s gravest environmental threat and humankind’s “greatest challenge”.   The vast majority of this challenge is the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide brought on by the agricultural industry’s farm animal population. 

The burning of fossil fuels (such as oil and gasoline) does release carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary gas responsible for global warming. However one calorie from animal protein requires eleven times as much fossil fuel input—releasing eleven times as much carbon dioxide.  This over abundance of carbon dioxide, the most common of the greenhouse gases, traps heat in the atmosphere greatly impacting climate change.  In addition, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide stored in trees are released during the destruction of vast acres of forest to provide pastureland and to grow crops for farmed animals. On top of this, animal manure also releases large quantities of carbon dioxide.  

Another contributing pollutant Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

Furthermore, many air pollutants that are harmful to human health and ecosystems also contribute to climate change by affecting the amount of incoming sunlight that is reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere, with some pollutants warming and others cooling the Earth. These so-called short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs) include methane which is produced by the billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows who are inhumanely crammed into farms each year than any other source.  Adding to the problem is the extremely energy intensive feeding of massive amounts of grain and water to these farmed animals and then killing, processing, transporting, and storing their flesh.   The methane is produced, both during digestion and from the acres of cesspools filled with feces that they excrete. Scientists report that every pound of methane is more than 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere. The EPA shows that animal agriculture is the single largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Rising Global Temperature

According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.

The global temperature mainly depends on how much energy the planet receives from the Sun and how much it radiates back into space—quantities that change very little. The amount of energy radiated by the Earth depends significantly on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, particularly the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Does 1-2 Degrees Really Make a Difference?

In the past, a 1-2 degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago.

The Melting Ice Caps 

Greenland’s land ice is already thawing fast enough to raise worldwide seas 0.74 millimeters per year. “The melt rate has been increasing,” in large part because the ice sheet’s surface thawing has picked up as global temperatures warm.  Seas are now rising an average of 3.2 millimeters per year globally, and are predicted to climb a total of 0.2 to 2.0 meters by 2100. The Greenland Ice Sheet poses the greatest risk for ocean levels because melting land ice is the main cause of rising seas—and “most of the Arctic’s land ice is locked up in Greenland,”. That’s 2.96 million cubic kilometers of ice now covering land areas—and it’s now melting into the ocean at a staggering rate. If the entire Greenland Ice Sheet thawed, it would raise sea levels by an average of seven meters. This would significantly flood coastal Mega Cities such as Mumbai and Hong Kong.

Climate Change Affects on The Human Population

Climate change affects human health in two main ways: first, by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors; and second, by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previously occurred.

The frequency, severity, duration, and location of weather and climate phenomena—like rising temperatures, heavy rains and droughts, and some other kinds of severe weather—are changing. This means that areas already experiencing health-threatening weather and climate phenomena, such as severe heat or hurricanes, are likely to experience worsening impacts, such as higher temperatures and increased storm intensity, rainfall rates, and storm surge. It also means that some locations will experience new climate-related health threats. For example, areas previously unaffected by toxic algal blooms or waterborne diseases because of cooler water temperatures may face these hazards in the future as increasing water temperatures allow the organisms that cause these health risks to thrive. Even areas that currently experience these health threats may see a shift in the timing of the seasons that pose the greatest risk to human health.  

Climate Change Affects on The Non-Human Population

Climate variability and change affects birdlife and animals in a number of ways; birds lay eggs earlier in the year than usual, plants bloom earlier and mammals come out of hibernation sooner. Distribution of animals is also affected; with many species moving closer to the poles as a response to the rise in global temperatures. Birds are migrating and arriving at their nesting grounds earlier, and the nesting grounds that they are moving to are not as far away as they used to be and in some countries the birds don’t even leave anymore, as the climate is suitable all year round.

A sea level rise of only 50cm could cause sea turtles to lose their nesting beaches – over 30% of Caribbean beaches are used by turtles during the nesting season and would be affected. The already endangered Mediterranean Monk Seals need beaches upon which to raise their pups and a rise in sea level could there could damage shallow coastal areas used annually by whales and dolphins which need shallow, gentle waters in order to rear there small calves.

Changing rainfall patterns are causing dams to be erected in some areas of our planet, not taking into account the migratory fish and mammals that annually migrate up river to breed and spawn and water birds which rely on wetland sites for migration are at threat from rising sea levels.

Climate Change in The American Mind

In 2018, more people surveyed said they felt the issues of global warming were personally important to them than at any time in the survey’s 11 year history.

Climate Change in the American Mind 2018  “Americans have, unfortunately, had far more experience with what climate change looks like,” researcher Anthony Leiserowitz told NPR. He led the team behind the survey, “Climate Change in the American Mind,” which was a collaboration between Yale and George Mason Universities.  He said the biggest surprise for researchers was how Americans’ worry about global warming spiked between their surveys in March and December of last year.  “It really does indicate that Americans are increasingly seeing this not as a distant problem, but as something that’s here and now,”.

 

Poore J, Nemecek
Science. 2018